An Ode To Harriet
Off she slipped into the night
This famous tortoise on her final flight
No need for her shell, nothing to fear
She looked up to the sky and said “I’m outta’ here!”
She did her time, about 176 years
She saw life from Darwin through Y2K Fears
More than just folklore, a living legend was she
There’s a lot to be said for moving slowly, I see
When she first was found, Darwin thought she was male
So Harry they named her, but with her mate she did fail
Then someone discovered her secret so deep
She was a lady, so only with males would she sleep
She spent most of her life in an Australian Zoo
Paying little attention to the crowds passing through
She wandered about in all of her glory
While poets and writers recorded her story
A healthy life she had always enjoyed
Plenty of food, not much to make her annoyed
But on June twenty-third, two thousand and six
She left from this world and moved on to the next
A sad day it was for all who admired this Queen
This Giant Land Tortoise ne’er again to be seen
But she made her mark on the hearts of us all
As she took her last bow and made her last curtain call
Sherry Gail Heim
June 24, 2006
Copyright © Sherry Gail Heim 2006
Sydney Australia (AP) - A 176-year-old tortoise believed to be one of the world's oldest living creatures has died in an Australian zoo.
The giant tortoise, known as Harriet, died at the Queensland-based Australia Zoo owned by "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and his wife Terri. Irwin said he considered Harriet a member of the family.
"Harriet has been a huge chunk of the Irwin family's life," Irwin said Saturday. "She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family. She was a grand old lady."
Senior veterinarian Jon Hanger told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Friday that Harriet died of heart failure.
Harriet was long reputed to have been one of three tortoises taken from the Galapagos Islands by Charles Darwin on his historic 1835 voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.
However, historical records, while suggestive, don't prove the claim. And some scientists have cast doubt on the story, with DNA tests confirming Harriet's age but showing she came from an island that Darwin never visited.
According to local legend, Harriet was just five years old and probably no bigger than a dinner plate when she was taken from the Galapagos to Britain.
The tortoise spent a few years in Britain before being moved to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in Australia's tropical Queensland state in the mid-1800s. There she was mistaken for a male and nicknamed Harry, according to Australia Zoo, which later bought the 330-pound tortoise in 1987.
Harriet was believed to be the world's oldest living tortoise, and one of its oldest living creatures. Despite her longevity, however, Harriet is not the world's oldest known tortoise.
That title was awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records to Tui Malila, a Madagascar radiated tortoise that was presented to the royal family of Tonga by British explorer Captain James Cook in the 1770s. It died in 1965 at the ripe age of 188.